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Best Performances of 2012: A Good Year for the Broken, Disturbed and Driven

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood December 25, 2012 at 7:00AM

A great year in film means a great year in acting. We've celebrated our Top Ten Films of 2012, and now it's time to give thanks for some of the performances that moved us this year.
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Rust and Bone, Ali & Stephanie

A great year in film means a great year in acting. We've celebrated our Top Ten Films of 2012, and now it's time to give thanks for some of the performances that moved us this year.

From Jessica Chastain's high-profile performance as the woman who tracked down Osama bin Laden in Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" to Emilie Dequenne's little talked about turn in Joachim Lafosse's heart-wrenching "Our Children" (which is also Film Comment's #1 Undistributed film), it was a year of dynamic, strong women, as well as those that have been broken.

Daniel Day-Lewis' masterful performance in "Lincoln" will not be soon forgotten, nor will Joaquin Phoenix's woebegone stray Freddie Quell in Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master." One of the most vividly disturbing performances comes from Australia's "The Snowtown Murders"; Daniel Henshall's portrait of real-life murderer John Bunting is painfully good.

In addition to the singular standouts, several duos delivered exceptional symbiotic performances; Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts in Jacques Audiard's gritty love story of broken individuals, "Rust and Bone"; Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant in Michael Haneke's unflinching look at death, "Amour"; Kacey Mottet Klein and Lea Seydoux as a lost, lonely family in Ursula Meier's "Sister"; and Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg as a bethrothed couple at odds with their own natures and that of the Georgian wilderness in Julia Loktev's "The Loneliest Planet."

Check out the trailers featuring these performances below.

STANDOUTS

The Snowtown Murders
'The Snowtown Murders'

Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty" (interview)

Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"

Emilie Dequenne, "Our Children"

Daniel Henshall, "The Snowtown Murders"

Mads Mikkelson, "The Hunt" (interview)

Rachel Mwanza, "War Witch"

Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master"

This article is related to: Awards, Lists, Headliners, Jessica Chastain, Daniel Day-Lewis, Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone, Lincoln, The Master, Zero Dark Thirty


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.